Can’t Wait Wednesday : Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.  I love Diane Setterfield’s writing – The Thirteenth Tale is a book that I would highly recommend, gothic brilliance.

OnceUpon.jpgA dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

Due For Publication: January 2019


Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Bellman and Black’s is one of those novels that has been greatly anticipated by a good number of us since reading The Thirteenth Tale.

Its like waiting for Donna Tartt or Rothfuss or Lynch.  The waiting becomes almost a part of the whole experience and sometimes the release is surrounded by so much hype that it becomes difficult to actually judge the book on its own merits.

Unfortunately this book is labelled as a ghost stoy and, as such, I was expecting a dark gothic novel.
Fortunately, having already read a couple of reviews I went into this with different expectations and I would urge you to do the same.

The story starts with a small group of boys playing harmlessly. One of them proudly wanting to exhibit his catapult claims to be able to hit an almost impossible target.  Of course, as soon as he lets his missive fly it hits a perfect trajectory both hitting and killing a young rook in the process.

Firstly we have the guilt of the young boy, William.  Then we have the rooks who have seen what he did.
William grows to be a man.  His life appears to be gifted as though he can do no wrong.  He takes a wife and they have beautiful children until one day the cruel hand of fate takes everything that William loves.  Well almost.
In his deepest despair William meets a strange man clothed in black who he believes he makes a bargain with.
From there William builds a different empire and yet deep in his subconscious there is almost always something missing, undone, until his sucess yet again starts to slip inevitably through his fingers.
The point with this novel, for me, is not really one of a ghost story but more a tale of paranoia.  William thinks he has done wrong and is constantly looking around corners imagining strange people.  he believes that he’s made a bargain with a person that he never sees and consequently strives for success to fullfill what he deems to be his side of the bargain.

In real terms William leads a very successful life. He is sought after at social events and people want to be part of his circle.  And yet he has no friends, doesn’t spend the money from his many successes and really has no form of life.  Is he driven by is own personal demons or is there a message within the story about being held accountable for one’s actions?

You need to decide for yourself.  In this context, this is a lovely tale that kept me thinking for days.  Setterfield is a master of words and this story is beautifully woven.  She uses words like an artist uses paint or a sculptor uses marble.  She weaves into the tale some lovely pieces of fact and superstition about rooks that are fascinating to read about and pulls together an intriguing little story in the process.  Is this as good as The Thirteenth Tale, maybe not.  That story was very well received and almost an Herculean task to match.  But, I thoght this was a beautifully written and thought provoking tale.  I would definitely not describe this as a gothic ghost story so if that’s what you’re expecting you will be undoubtedly disappointed.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley. The above is my own opinion.

I am sumitting this as one of my reads for Carl, at Stainless Steel Droppings RIP event.